How to survive your advocacy exam

This blog post is part of the diary of an LPC Student Series on YCIL.

In the run up to my advocacy exam, I was terrified. Unlike some of my fellow students, I hate public speaking, and never did debating or mooting at undergrad. But first time jitters aside, it is actually quite fun. You just need to get prepare like you prepare for any other exam.

1. Be prepared.

You get given advance facts for a reason, so you know what you are arguing, it is important to read this properly, and do your preparatory work. There will always people who can walk in and simply blag it. But there was also people who got torn to shreds in questioning because they missed big issues in the case, or had no idea what they were arguing. You will be given time to prepare – use it. familiarise yourself with both the factual aspects of the case (and take some time to check the legal points so you are comfortable with them).

2. Practice

Practice your submissions out loud. This way you can work on your pace, pronunciation and the practice the language/terminology required in advocacy. In addition to any practice you carry out on friends and family you will be given plenty of opportunities to practice on your course in workshops and a practice assessment. This will help you become familiar with how advocacy works (and how the exam will work).

In the assessment each student will speak for around 10 minutes while doing their submissions, then the judge may ask brief questions. Afterwards, the judge gives his or her judgment and you may need to say something briefly about the client’s costs. After a practice session, this is not as daunting as one might think.

3. Know what you want, and how you can get it.

Go in there, knowing what you want to come out with. You play the solicitor for either the applicant or the respondent – to get what you want for your client you need to know what you want the outcome to be.  You can only argue effectively if you know what you want and how to get what you want.

4. Know who your client is.

It is surprising how many people slip up on this one or went for the safe option of just referring to “my client” the whole time. (another common mistake was if you were practicing your speech using “Sir” and you ended up with a female judge, and letting a “Sir” slip in)

5. Look and feel the part

Abide by the dress code regulations set out (you will be wearing a suit) and you are all ready to go and do your best. If you feel uncomfortable in a suit, practice in it.  Also be warned, you will need to have your top button done up, so make sure you can breathe beforehand, not when you get in there – you’ll be as nervous enough as it is.

6. Have notes (or not)

Although you can’t take a script into the room with you on the day, you are allowed the bundle of documents and the assessment criteria, both of which can be highlighted and annotated with brief notes.We also had to hand everything in at the assessment. As respondent, I literally had 6 points in my notes when I went in and the rest was annotating them to let me know what was raised by the prosecution and how to counter it. As respondent you have much more of an opportunity to be passionate, and just go with the flow, notes are restrictive, and should only be used as pointers and to give yourself a pause.

7. Questions

Finally, there is always a chance you will be asked questions. This can be to clarify things you have said, make sure you understand the case or try and pick up on things you have missed – depending on your performance. The main thing is to not let it throw you off. Breathe. Think. Answer.